Under the influence: sublethal exposure to an insecticide affects personality expression in a jumping spider.

Royauté, R., Buddle, C.M., and Vincent, C. (2015). "Under the influence: sublethal exposure to an insecticide affects personality expression in a jumping spider.", Functional Ecology. doi : 10.1111/1365-2435.12413  Access to full text


1. Consistent behavioural differences between individuals have far-reaching implications for ecology and evolution, including how populations cope with increasing anthropogenic changes, notably pesticides. Although sublethal doses of insecticides are known to alter behaviour, current studies on the relationship between toxicants and behaviour tend to ignore effects on individual variation. 2. Our objective was to determine whether sublethal exposure to an organophosphate insecticide could affect the consistency of individual behaviour and disrupt behavioural correlations, in a jumping spider occurring in agroecosystems. Adults of the jumping spider Eris militaris (Araneae: Salticidae) were scored by an open-field and a prey-capture assay, each conducted pre- and post- exposure to the organophosphate insecticide phosmet. Half of the individuals received no exposure to the insecticide to provide a control group. We then estimated the changes in repeatability, a measure of the extent of personality differences, and in behavioural correlations between control and insecticide-treated groups. 3. Although insecticide exposure had no discernable effects on the population's average behaviours, insecticide-exposed individuals showed an average of 23% lower repeatability and the correlation between activity and prey capture was more strongly collapsed in females. 4. Our results provide clear evidence that exposure to sublethal doses of insecticides on an important arthropod predator in agroecosystems causes substantial alteration of personality differences even in absence of a population-wide shift in behaviour. This suggests that insecticide effects are more complex than previously thought and indicates high variation in the way individuals coped with insecticidal exposure. 5. By altering the consistency of behavioural traits and their correlations, exposure to sublethal concentrations of insecticides can have subtle effects on behavioural expression, which may ultimately affect biocontrol performance in an important arthropod predator in agroecosystems. Our study calls for an increasing focus on individual behavioural variation when testing the effects of pesticides on non-targeted fauna.

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